Outside restaurant - Upscale Tables

BRITA and WDC host industry webinar

Embedding sustainability in the hospitality sector after COVID-19

BRITA was proud to recently co-host with Whale and Dolphin Conservation, an insightful panel discussion chaired by former MP and Environmental Audit Committee Chair Mary Creagh, exploring how sustainability can be embedded in the hospitality sector when it begins to reopen.

We thoroughly enjoyed hearing from panellists Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive of UKHospitality, and Kirsty Saddler, Values and Sustainability Director of LEON Restaurants, about how hospitality businesses of all sizes have the opportunity to put sustainability at the heart of their operations when they're able to restart and embrace the new normal.

Although the sector is far from back on its feet, we discussed lots of ways businesses can work with charities and Government to ‘build back better’, embracing more sustainable practices that deliver value for business and wider society.

Here are the five biggest take-aways from the fascinating session:

Coffee Cup Plastic

1. From small steps to big impact

As Kate Nicholls pointed out, “If you ask people to do a huge step change in their individual behaviour, or their corporate behaviour, it’s too difficult. But if all of us as millions of consumers make one tiny change then we can have a very big impact.”

She added that when these changes are made, we need to celebrate and promote successes even if we know there is more to do. If we acknowledge progress, we can inspire wider participation.

Restaurant Bottles - Upscale

2. Re-setting the dial

During the pandemic, the sector has had to stop a number of services that customers previously considered the default; from daily fresh towels and bedding to providing plastic cutlery, sachets and napkins.

Now we know that customers don’t actually need these services, and have been happy to go without them. In the new normal, hospitality has an opportunity to build on these insights rather than revert to the past, and help drive further reductions in all kinds of waste.

Fill and Go Bottle in Kitchen Sink

3. Bring on behaviour change

The current crisis has demonstrated a public ability and willingness to drastically shift behaviour when faced with an existential threat. In fact, our recent research with YouGov found that almost 7 in 10 people are willing to alter their behaviour to manage a global crisis such as climate change.

As a sector that touches people’s lives daily, hospitality is uniquely positioned to help support this driving force for change. We have an opportunity to work together to encourage more sustainable behaviours within our businesses and beyond.

Chef in kitchen cutting vegetables - food waste

4. Building back better

Sustainability doesn’t have to be a business cost. In fact, it can be crucial to economic recovery. For example, profit margins on food can be increased by removing food waste whilst also finding new ways to reuse waste effectively.

Interestingly, the pandemic has increased the use of technology within small businesses, which make up 80% of the hospitality sector. Restaurants, cafes and hotels can now plan more carefully and set up pre-booking systems, all of which helps to reduce waste.

Restaurant Kitchen Preparation

5. Utilising our untapped purchasing power

As Kirsty Saddler said, “we can no longer just look at controlling our ‘controllables’, which actually make up quite a small sphere of our impact.” Looking beyond plastic straws and avocados, hospitality businesses can look to its suppliers and wider stakeholders to help drive more systemic change.

After all, hospitality businesses are also consumers who can use their purchasing power to drive positive change throughout the supply chain, including reductions in carbon emissions to help support the UK drive towards net zero by 2050.

les eaux variées des fontaines à eau brita

Mary Creagh, former MP and Environmental Audit Committee Chair

“The challenges of the Covid-19 crisis must not make us lose track of the urgency of climate change and the need to continue integrating sustainability into the fabric of our businesses, our homes and our societies. Since the pandemic hit, people have had to rapidly and drastically change their behaviours - in many ways it has been a dress rehearsal for climate change. This event reinforced the clear need to do more to celebrate our successes in improving sustainability while continuing to help make it easier for people to change their behaviours so that we can all be sustainable by default.”

We were delighted by the positivity and eagerness of hospitality businesses to embrace sustainability.

It’s clear that in spite of the immediate hurdles and difficulties the sector is facing, there is an amazing opportunity to build on a growing awareness of the climate change and implement lessons learned during these challenging times, driving value for businesses and the planet.

BRITA looks forward to continuing our work with partners in the hospitality sector to support this journey and help as best we can to improve sustainability in the UK.

View the webinar on-demand and in full here.

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